Police are warning avocado growers of a "significant spike" in thefts from orchards as prices soar.
Four men targeted an Athenree orchard in the Bay of Plenty, but fled before police arrived. Police said they were expecting a spike in thefts from avocado orchards because of soaring avocado prices.
A 200g avocado was $5.06 in May, up 37 per cent from $3.69 in April. The price in May this year was up 50 per cent from $3.38 in May 2017 - the highest price for avocado in Statistics New Zealand records.
Katikati avocado grower Bruce Polley said prices rose when supply was limited. He would be chaining up his gates to help ward off would-be thieves.
"There is a small group of people out there who are avocado fanatics, who will pay whatever price for avocado."
Rangiuru grower Ron Bailey had installed security lights and cameras to deter thieves from his orchard.
Bailey was aware of thefts "usually around the Katikati area, which seems to be more vulnerable".
New Zealand Avocado chief executive Jen Scoular said the association was aware of recent thefts from "multiple Bay of Plenty avocado orchards" and warned growers to review their security.
"The financial cost to growers can be significant and avocado theft also has serious impacts on grower safety."
Scoular said all avocados harvested in New Zealand were clipped, leaving a small stalk "button".
"If the avocado stalk looks very long, or if there is a hole where the stalk should be, it is possible the avocados have been stolen."
If anyone spots suspicious behaviour or vehicles hanging around orchards, they should call their police station. Orchardists should consider reinforcing shelter belts with fencing, sensor lights, and concealed trail cameras. Advise neighbours when you're absent to keep watch over the property. If anyone is offered a significant amount of avocados from an unofficial source at a heavily discounted price, they should report it to police.
Source - New Zealand Police